Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner contacted The Observer earlier this afternoon to respond to an earlier post about the CUNY board of directors nixing a decision by the John Jay faculty to award him an honorary degree after one board member alleged that Kushner had “anti-Israel” views.
Kushner passed along a letter that he has sent both to the board of trustees and John Jay College in which he accusses the dissenting trustee, Jeffrey S. Weisenfeld of delivering “a grotesque caricature of my political beliefs regarding the state of Israel, concocted out of three carefully cropped, contextless quotes taken from interviews I’ve given, the mention of my name on the blog of someone with whom I have no connection whatsoever, and the fact that I serve on the advisory board of a political organization with which Mr. Weisenfeld strongly disagrees.”
The organization that Kushner cites, Jewish Voice for Peace, is in Kushner words, a group of “courageous, committed people who work very hard serving the interests of peace and justice and the Jewish people.”
He adds that he disagrees with many of the viewpoints of the organizations but says, “I have a capacity Mr. Weisenfeld lacks, namely the ability to tolerate and even value disagreement.”
Kushner also objects that he was disparaged in a forum that was broadcast live (and now can be heard over the Internet) but that he did not have an opportunity to defend himself.
The CUNY board did not so much reject John Jay College’s decision to award Kushner an honorary degree, but tabled the discussion until the next board meeting. Because the board does not meet again until after the school year, they have effectively denied Kushner the degree.
Kushner told The Observer that he has “no intention of ever accepting an award from CUNY.”
Full letter below: